Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe



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Georgia O'Keeffe’s New York Images

Georgia O'Keeffe was a modernist 20th Century female artist with a distinctive perspective and style. In addition to being precise and meticulous, she was also unique in her approach and interpretation of nature’s shades and shapes. This artist possessed an inimitable view of things.  In her early work, she displayed her subject matter in distinguishing colors and forms, while later on, her paintings adopted a modern and abstract look, which was basically initiated in the O'Keeffe New York images.

New York Night
New York Night

The Big City
Although unique in style, most of O'Keeffe's early art work was not considered abstract.  She developed her modern style when she moved to New York and began painting the big city’s buildings. Between 1926 and 1929, O'Keeffe created many images of New York’s skyscrapers, as well as other city landscapes; a great number of which were derived from the same perspective: looking out the window of her Shelton Hotel apartment on the 30th floor.

Even though many of today’s photographers have been similarly inspired by New York structures and scenery, the O'Keeffe New York pictures capture, in a distinctive fashion, not only the size, colors and features of the buildings, but also the upbeat atmosphere and movement of the city.

New York skyscrapers became a popular subject of art during the 1920s and 30s. They were the city’s symbol of modern technology and fascinating architecture.  Like O’Keeffe, visitors from Europe as well as other parts of the world were amazed by New York’s obvious ingenuity, wealth, power, and culture.

O’Keeffe’s Artistic Changes
When Georgia O’Keeffe relocated to New York in 1918, she met artist Alfred Stieglitz, who offered his help to the talented painter. They were married in 1924, and from that time on, we notice a change in O’Keeffe’s subject matter, a switch from nature’s landscapes to urban scenery.  New York brought about other changes to her painting as well; during that period, she not only began to work primarily in oil, creating some remarkable compositions, but also further experimented with detail and precision. She characterized her figurative pictures, attempting to reproduce the same type of movement that one can often feel in photography.

Fascinating Skyscrapers
Due to her ongoing interest in structures and skyscrapers, O’Keeffe created numerous urban landscapes, namely, New York Night, City Night the famous Shelton Hotel, New York No1, Radiator Building-Night, New York, The Shelton with Sunspots, East River from the Shelton, New York with Moon and Ritz Tower.  New York Night was created by carefully assessing the height and distance of the different structures, as well as studying the surrounding atmosphere.  O’Keeffe managed to capture all the proper conditions: lights, night, wind, moon, including the various objects on the buildings. Most remarkable, she was able to reproduce the unique patterns of shadows set on the New York skyscrapers.  There are no common street subjects to complete the image such as those typically found in modern photography: vehicles, people, and vendors’ stands. 

Perception, Perception, Perception
Although some may judge the O'Keeffe New York paintings as overly simplistic, others deem them to be powerful specifically because of their simplicity.  More notable is that they offer a unique, even feminine, perspective as they were captured from the artist’s apartment window.

O’Keeffe eventually experimented with different perspectives, other than the view provided by her window.  By looking up from the street, she was able to bring about on canvas the greatness of these skyscrapers, emulating the view that locals and tourists encountered, and always including the atmosphere.  She practiced other methods as well; for example, The Shelton with Sunspots was created from a photograph that had a glare and spots due to the lack of a lens hood on the camera at the time the picture was taken. She used the spots to her advantage as she transformed the scene into a romantic atmosphere that evoked a sense of wonder.

After her many years on a farm in Wisconsin, Georgia O’Keeffe appreciated the buzz and excitement of New York.  She translated the change into her paintings of the city, which shocked many critics as they found it rather odd that a woman would show such an interest in using a man-induced environment as her subject matter. Over time, the art world would come to realize and applaud her unique vision and style. The O'Keeffe New York paintings embodied the movement, technology, and atmosphere that was New York.


About the Author: Jessie Ippersiel has been a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe's work for many years and provides content for



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